In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, Stephen Covey describes a commute on a train.
The scene he describes is calm and peaceful as riders are traveling in the city. Some people reading newspapers, others caught in their own thoughts, and some with their eyes closed in restful solitude.
The scene is interrupted by a man entering the train at a stop with his young children. The man sits down while his children run wild. Grabbing people's papers, yelling, and carrying on.
Covey is compelled to tell the man, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”
The man who is completely oblivious to the raucous caused by the children looks up, bewildered...
“Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”
You can imagine Covey’s shock. His instantaneous change from irritation to compassion for the young children who will never see their mother again and the man who lost his wife.
The story illustrates truth.
But what is truth?
Truth: The children were making the ride miserable for other passengers.
What would have been your impression of the man and the children had we not discovered the backstory?
It’s the backstory that changes everything.
Many of us would look down on the man. Our “inner teacher” would reprimand the children for being so rude and inconsiderate.
What is the backstory of the children you teach?
If you knew, would it change your perception of the truth?